Can the last month of 2012 be an indication of what’s to come in 2013? I hope so, because when it comes to books, December 2012 was my most satisfying–and hopeful–month in a long time. This wasn’t because I read the best books of the year during this month, but because this was the month when I found my passion for reading again. After too many months of reading ennui and halfhearted dips into chapters and verse, December found me falling once again down that literary rabbit hole; getting caught up (delightfully) once more in words and story. And I’m not ashamed to admit that it all started with Romance…
December Books Read
The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen
Unmaking Hunter Kennedy by Anne Eliot
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Malory Family Series by Johanna Lindsey
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
There’s no doubt about it, December is a BUSY time of year; and what with all the shopping, wrapping, traveling and socializing, it’s a month when most people find it difficult to really lose themselves in a book. December can be a difficult month to finish one book, let alone two or more! But for me, all the demands of December make it necessary to have an escape, someplace I can go to utterly lose myself when the stress gets too high, and that place, of course, is books.
As mentioned in the first paragraph, above, I had found it distressingly difficult to get excited about my reading in 2012. It’s not that I wasn’t reading good books, because I was (Gilgamesh, Dracula, Moby Dick) and it’s not that the books I was reading were too dense or metaphysical, because they weren’t (The Pilgrim Hawk, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid) it was just that somehow the passion was missing. I didn’t find myself falling into a reading worm-hole with any of my books, where the real world disappears and leaves me intimately alone with the story, the words, and the characters. Instead, most of my reading during 2012 took place with the physical world all to present in my consciousness.
Along came December, with its many distractions and demands. I decided that December just wasn’t the time for serious reading; December was the time for easy reading, for fluff. One of the book blogs I follow had mentioned The Fine Art of Truth or Dare as a sweet but non-challenging Y/A novel and I thought “Maybe this is exactly what I need right now.” I was right. I started the book at lunchtime one day, and when I finished it 3 or 4 hours later I realized that my entire afternoon had flown by with nary a thought about the practical world. I had lost myself in the thrill, angst and crescendo of first love. Amazon’s recommendations led me from The Fine Art of Truth or Dare to The Unmaking of Hunter Kennedy; another Y/A novel, another story of thrill and angst and heart-palpitating first kisses. Again, I was lost in the story and the world around me went silent.
I had worried after those two books that maybe I was regressing in my reading needs, that I now needed that excitement and fluff and romance to feel passionate about a book. I was wrong. When I picked up The Time Machine, and then Fahrenheit 451 to read for my Rediscovering the Classics group I was again whisked out of my Southern California world and into the past, the future, and a disturbingly alternate present. Again my heart raced, my breath quickened, and my own life briefly ceased to exist… And this time it happened without a single young lover in sight.
The Mysterious Benedict Society seemed like the perfect book to read while I was baking cookies, planning parties, and Yule shopping for my two daughters–both strong-willed and independent, literary-minded young ladies. It was a great story for stopping and starting on a dime. Easy enough to put down in the middle of a paragraph when the oven timer went off, but compelling enough to tickle at the back of my mind, not letting me forget how much I wanted to know how it ended.
Johanna Lindsey and Nick Hornby came along at the same time–and two more strange literary bedfellows I really cannot imagine. Lindsey is top-notch bodice-ripping, bosom-heaving, historical fiction romance, while Nick Hornby is practically the spokesperson for the inhibited, romantically-averse, pop-culture loving modern male. How these two authors managed to complement each other I will never know, but complement each other they did. Hornby is one of my favorite contemporary authors. He has a unique ability to capture the beauty in the mundane. Every single one of Hornby’s books looks into the boring corners of our lives and makes them interesting and important. His books prove the old adage that “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making plans.” High Fidelity‘s main character Rob Fleming brought me into his life, showed me the dark corners and ugly neuroses, and still made me love him. While Hornby was shining a light into the dark and supposedly boring corners of everyday life, Johanna Lindsey’s Malory family was making me feel a thrill and passion for it again.
Finally, Where’d You Go, Bernadette? was borrowed from an out-of-town library while my family was on vacation. I checked it out of the library 48 hours before we were to leave town to return home, giving me a definite hard deadline for finishing. Luckily, Semple’s story is so compelling that I had no trouble powering through it happily, in spite of the fact that our final days were already packed pretty full. I can see why this book is getting so much attention from book reviewers and blogs; it’s a heart wrenching yet funny story, that faithfully expresses the modern technophile’s conflicting desires for adventure and solitude, and the hilarious mess that those conflicting desires can often make of our lives.
Yes, after a year of ennui and frustration, the final month of 2012 has given me hope for 2013. The passion and voracious desire for books that was somehow returned to me this past December has stayed with me for the first few days of January, and it thankfully shows no signs of leaving. As I delve into My Life in France, a memoir of Julia Child, I find that once again the world around me falls away, and I tumble into the culinary world of post WWII France. My cheeks flush, my heart quickens, and I am once again passionately in love with story, with words, with the world.